After not being able to continue the work on this story with my old Beta, I deleted the first chapter. I now started over with PTB and here is the first chapter again, changed here and there. The second one should be up very soon.
I hope you are still with me on this and since summer break starts in a week, you can be sure of a lot of updates.
A hefty pain suddenly rushed through my left index finger, harshly and mercilessly, as my heartbeat pounded in the tip of my finger. The stapler had missed the pile of paper on my overflowing desk and instead had drilled through my skin.
The rush of profanities that escaped my mouth earned me slightly disgusted gazes from a group of four middle-aged women passing by my desk, wearing more make-up on their faces than our latest magazine spread offered. Their blonde hair varied in styles from a sleek ponytail, a fancy up-do (which, in fact, I envied a little since I could never manage to do anything remotely similar to her style with my own hair), chin-length, flawless cork screw curls to a long, wavy mane that reached the woman's lower back. Each of them wore bright-purple blazers and as they watched me, their noses wrinkled, I forced a shallow, welcoming smile onto my face. My entire hand now pounded with pain I could feel damp blood oozing out of the tiny stitch.
None of the women responded to my smile, but after working here for so long I was no longer affected by that. Quite frankly, I did not know why I still bothered with gestures of politeness in this place. No one took notice, anyway.
With a whoosh, I released a breath I had not realized I had been holding. I sighed as I looked down at my finger, trying to ignore the pain as I rummaged through my drawer for a tissue. Careful not to smear the papers with droplets of my blood, I wrapped the tissue around my finger, the metallic scent of the fluid finally reaching my nostrils, making me feel nauseous and uncomfortable. Trying hard to suppress the usual nausea I switched from breathing through my nose to my mouth and wiped away the remaining blood, throwing the tissue into my trash can.
Examining my finger one last time (although nothing was really visible apart from a dark red film that clung to the edges of my raw skin – years of biting my nails leaving their trail behind) I tried to focus on my task, realigning the pile of papers and setting the stapler in the right place. I checked four times whether my fingers were a safe distance away before pushing down on the ancient piece of heavy metal with all of my strength, almost lying my chest flat on my desk. The sound of crushed paper sent chills down my spine and I winced as a new flash of pain rushed through my finger.
"I never knew handling a stapler was so exhausting," a high-pitched, oily voice casually said behind me, curiosity in this voice I detested so much.
"Hey, Jessica," I responded lazily, straightening in my plastic excuse of a chair. Even before I could turn around to face her she popped into my field of vision, the pungent scent of fresh nail-polish mixed with too much perfume lingering in the air, making my eyes water as they were faced with a bright-pink, silk blouse.
Jessica Stanley. Without a doubt the leading lady in every inappropriate dream each man in this office had ever had. Slim, curvy, always wearing slightly too much of everything from make-up to jewellery (yet never seeming to wear enough clothes to cover her perfectly tanned skin), her heels practically screwed onto her feet and her white-toothed smile as fake as the diamond ring shining on her left hand.
And worst of all: she was my boss. Well, technically she was not. I was working for a magazine for women and she was the editor-in-chief's assistant. I, on the other hand, was Jessica's assistant. The job on its own seemed like a punishment from hell – but having Jessica Stanley as my superior only decreased my own self-esteem and boosted hers into flagitious heights.
She wasn't a bad person, only fake and shallow, and she enjoyed power more than any other person I knew.
"Bella? Are you even listening to me?" her shrill voice ripped me out of my trance and I blushed as I realized that I had been staring at her face with my mouth hanging open while she had been blabbering.
"Sorry, what did you say?"
"You really need to pull yourself together. Sometimes I'm a little worried you'll just fall asleep all of a sudden," she went on as if nothing had interrupted her stream of words, her eyes now focused on her outstretched hand-without a doubt trying to pull my focus onto the ring sparkling there proudly.
"Why is that?"
"You always seem so absent. Anyways, the cafeteria has those baguettes with pesto and tomatoes today. You know I love them, and they're always gone before I make it down there. I'm practically drowning in all the work. So, would you mind getting down there before my lunch break and getting me one? You're quicker on your feet," she said matter-of-factly. I did not miss the slightly disgusted glance she shot at the black ballerina flats which stood abandoned underneath my desk while my bare feet dangled in the air, my calves every now and then nudging against my trash can.
I knew I couldn't refuse, although I had planned to skip my own lunch break to do some of the useless work Jessica had assigned me.
"Sure. Is there anything else you would like from the cafeteria?"
Jessica pouted, something she always did whenever she pretended to be deep in thought.
"A coffee would be great. But with soy milk, remember."
"Sure, no problem," I said submissively. With a shallow "Thanks" and a big grin on her face Jessica, retreated, the steady click click of her heals matching the rhythm of the pain pounding in my finger.
I eyed the massive stack of documents that were still piled on my desk- all of which needed to be ordered and filed this afternoon- and I knew that skipping my lunch break would be inevitable
Technically, my job was not that bad. The salary was decent considering the ridiculous work I had to do. But I was in my mid-twenties and I was starting to become desperate, to question myself, dreading about a future in which I was still sitting here at this table, my burning feet hovering above their leather prison, my fingers wrapped in band-aids because of yet another work accident due to my clumsiness, and bored to death by the monotonous, almost factory-like tasks: filing, ordering, copying, getting coffee. I felt like an eternal intern and was starting to fear for my future.
I had never been overly excited about what might become of me. But now that three years had passed since I had gotten this job, I was starting to be afraid of being stuck here forever. From where I was at the moment, there was no progress, and yet, I could not just make a run for it. I needed this job and the money.
However, I had reached a point in life where the money suddenly started to become slightly irrelevant. Each one of my friends seemed to be absolutely content with what they had and what they were doing. And although I knew that, in all likelihood, they too were putting up a facade, I could not help but envy them and feel like all the money and security were not worth giving up my dreams.
Who knew what might happen? Maybe I would trip over my own feet while getting Jessica's lunch, fall down the stairs and break my neck. And then what? I had all that money saved from a job that strained and bored me and definitely made me.
I had always admired people like my mother, people who could just go and live their lives without worrying about the consequences, or where they would end up tomorrow, or how they would afford food or a place to sleep.
More than anything, I wished I could be at least a little more like that. But I just couldn't. I received a decent salary each month, had a small, cozy apartment, my insurance and a strict schedule each day – no room for surprises or drastic changes.
But I couldn't help thinking that safety was starting to suck the air out of my lungs.
All the things I really wanted to do, my wishes and fantasies, small desires that remained unfulfilled, started to create an increasing bubble inside of me and it threatened to burst. It felt like my life was starting to become more and more similar to the growing piles of paper on my desk. There was nothing to balance the dull disappointment I felt every morning when I woke up and every night when I fell into my bed, exhausted and drained.
Although there was nobody in my life to ask, I sometimes wondered how I would respond if someone asked when I had last been happy.
I couldn't remember.
It wasn't that I was unhappy, but my disappointment and dissatisfaction caused a bitterness inside of my weary mind that almost made me feel truly unhappy. A little more time in this cage and I would inevitably reach that level of mind.
I had become a machine, my hands and eyes performing their dull and shallow work while my mind sunk deeper and deeper into the misery I had created for myself. My routine was only occasionally interrupted by a stapler drilling into my skin, letting me feel actual pain and cursing myself for not being satisfied with what life granted me, for being so whiny instead of standing up, leaving this office and never coming back.
I knew that would never happen, though.